© XAVIER RIBAS - Nitrate_I Write Your Names On My City Walls (2014) Double channel projection, sound (35' 22"), vinyl wall text, variable dimensions. Ed 3+1ap


I Write Your Names On My City Walls (2014). Video stills



I write Your Names on my City Walls is a video installation that looks at the School of Santa María in Iquique, where on the 21st of December 1907 more than 300 nitrate workers were killed by the Chilean army. This is arguably one of the most symbolically charged events and contested sites in the history of the Chilean labour movement.

Two video cameras record the everyday life on both sides of the street around the abandoned school building where the event took place more than a hundred years ago. The original building burned down in the 1930s, but was replaced by the present concrete structure, which at the time of filming in December 2010 was due for imminent demolition. For decades, the school had been a site of memory for the Chilean left, where local workers and students demonstrated and held meetings, and even occupied the school on many occasions. The cameras record the last political graffiti written on the external walls of the school building and the banners of recent demonstrations, both bearing witness to the continuing political significance of this site.

The tragic events in Iquique happened five months after the stay of the Lowell Expedition in Atacama. It is perhaps not an accident of history that while we have more than ten thousand pictures of Mars taken from Oficina Alianza, there are not any of the killing of the workers in Iquique, just a few miles away. In some way, the photographs of Mars, which Lowell called ‘doubt-killing bullets from the planet of war’, and Loomis Todd’s photographs of the workers, which you can see at the beginning of the exhibition, could be considered the counter-images of these events.

A transcript of the last political graffiti on the school walls accompanies the double projection.




I Write Your Names On My City Walls. Installation MACBA, Barcelona [Installation photograph: Marc Roig]


I Write Your Names On My City Walls. Installation at The Bluecoat, Liverpool.





I Write Your Names On My City Walls (2010). Video stills